• by Wes Singleton

Spider-Man: Homecoming, B

Rated PG-13, 135 minutes

Marvel does it again, spinning a new web of excitement with a new version of Spider-Man. After what has been an otherwise lackluster summer in terms of blockbuster, comes the thrilling and satisfying new "Spider-Man: Homecoming." Better than the lackluster Andrew Garfield Spidey and as good as the stout Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" films, this Spider-Man comes reshaped and nestled in as part of the larger Marvel Universe, which has changed the shape of superhero films in the last few years. In spite of a few flaws - an occasionally uneven narrative with no central romantic lead for Spidey - it packs enough punch to be the best big blockbuster of the summer of 2017 thus far.

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine -- distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

Directed by Jon Watts ("Cop Car"), and co-written by several, including Watts and "Horrible Bosses'" scribes Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the enjoyable "Spider-Man: Homecoming" strikes a chord between goofy teenage fun (Spanish test or defeat the bad guys) and the dark side of superhero; it lacks the grit of some of Marvel's stuff, but is an exciting iteration of Peter Parker, played with a awe-shucks innocence from young British actor Tom Holland, and he's well-backed by a solid, all-star cast, including Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/IronMan, who is Peter's mentor this time out and always good for a sarcastic line or two.

Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei is charming as the reimagined, appealing Aunt May, and she also has the film's single funniest scene, the very final scene in "Homecoming" before cut to credits, which should make future installments rather interesting. Also with a few good moments as Spidey's best friend and sidekick Ned is newcomer Jacob Batalon, who helps his super friend in a couple of crucial scenes, as well as "IronMan" fave Jon Favreau, as Stark's personal assistant Happy, who despite the name, is none too pleased to have a kid around.

Overall, Watts and company do a terrific job in execution with "Homecoming," particularly in the exciting action set pieces and the first-rate visuals (not to mention a couple of nifty Captain America cameos), but there are flaws with the narrative, the biggest of which will likely be explored in future installments. First, is the slight miscasting of the stellar Keaton as the Vulture character and the film's chief villain; he's a mixed bag here: Keaton captures some of the every man quality that the character requires, yet he's too old for the part.

Second, and more disappointing, "Spider-Man" lacks the romantic qualities the other versions had - and yes this sounds like a drug joke, but it's missing Mary Jane. Peter has the lovely Liz (Laura Harrier), but their elationship is never fully explored, and then there's Michelle (Disney star Zendaya, unrecognizable here), who also goes by MJ as a nod to Mary Jane and who may have a larger role in future installments. As much spectacle as there is in "Homecoming," much more romance could've been added for balance.

The second act occasionally veers off into some shaky predictability that we know is temporary fluff, but in the end, there's enough action set pieces and some cool touches, especially to Spidey's redesigned suit, courtesy of Stark, that will keep audiences engaged. "Spider-Man" is an enjoyable, welcome "Homecoming" and a satisfying action film this summer is need of. It's not perfect, but it's a solid start.

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